Last night saw the much heralded TakeOver: London at Wembley’s SSE Arena, for the culmination of the first NXT tour outside of the United States. To the fans watching on the WWE Network, you saw what has become the standard for NXT, with five matches in two hours, with the only offensive content coming from the fans in the crowd, courtesy of a litany of football-style chants.
The evening started with queuing, and lots of it, as it felt like the majority of the (announced) 10,000-crowd took heed of the notices sent out by TicketMaster to get to the venue early (it turned out, to aid in the baggage screening process). Rumours of an early start time were shot down when it turned out that the 6pm door time came and went, giving us just over an hour to get into the building, get your (overpriced) merchandise and assorted goodies before making it to your seats for the start of the “dark matches” that were being taped for next week’s NXT.
Once everyone had gotten seated (including the trolling “Eva Marie Section” in front of me), the evening started with the appearance of the Vaudevillains, suitably attired in Dr. Who and Sherlock Holmes costumes, signalling the four-way tag team match that’ll be headlining the last NXT before Christmas. Gotch and English, in spite of their pseudo heel turn a few weeks earlier, enjoyed a largely positive reaction, in stark contrast to Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley, who were soundly booed all night long, much like the “lost in the shuffle” pairing of Blake and Murphy, who are finding that wearing your girlfriends’ torn sweaters are not a good look.
If you’d been keeping an eye on any Twitter feeds relating to the NXT tour, you’d have noticed that a certain tag team were being treated like Gods in the UK. It was no different at Wembley, with Jason Jordan and Chad Gable being given another rendition of 2 Unlimited’s “No Limit”. Jordan and Gable took home the crowd pleasing win in one of the better matches of the evening, along with memories of an audience that will no doubt be ripped off the next time NXT returns to Full Sail (note: Save the Gable, it’s endangered!).
Match number two saw the debut of Elias Samson, to staggering indifference. Although his vignettes have been unusual, the crowd at Wembley were not aware of who Elias was, outside of “that guy who mimes to a guitar”. His win over Bull Dempsey was too short to mean anything, and his act will need a lot more tweaking before he can get into the part of the roster where he can lose but get away with it because of his gimmick. A bit like Tye Dillinger…
Speaking of, we came so close to upsetting the crowd, as Tye made his appearance in the post-TakeOver “bonus match”, which wasn’t even hinted at, and came after a fair portion of the crowd had left following Finn Balor’s protracted exit from the ring. Fortunately, Sami Zayn’s return, which was unannounced to the crowd (but had been revealed to the viewers on the WWE Network), was a good way to send the crowd home even happier than they had been. Granted, being told that after TakeOver, we’d be seeing a main event featuring repackaged versions of El Generico and Gavin Spears would have drawn howls of derision five years ago, but here we are, with both performers well and truly over with the London crowd.
As for TakeOver itself, well, it definitely wasn’t the best special that the company has done, and in large parts, was more memorable because of the crowd, but the in-ring action was solid throughout the night. Emma vs Asuka was a fantastic way to start the show, with the tag team title match equally enthralling (for different reasons). Ditto Baron Corbin vs Apollo Crews, but sadly not for the in ring work.
Then the main events – Nia Jax vs Bayley was a one sided squash that ended in a crowd pleasing win for Bayley, whilst Finn Balor successfully defended his title against Samoa Joe.
No, this isn’t a warts and all review of a show that’s available on the network (and likely illegally via a plethora of other sites). These are the words of a wrestling fan who has seen a live show that reminded him of why he fell in love with wrestling all those years ago. Great in ring work. Simple, but believable characters, and storylines you can believe in. NXT is the product that we know that WWE can deliver – but as long as NXT remains on this path, there’ll be years of satisfied customers to follow.